My Aunt Peg the saint
In addition to tasting good, chocolate has many health
benfits that are now being acknowledged by doctors
In my early childhood, the sweet mythology of Catholicism was a warm security blanket that folded seamlessly into the communal warmth and comfort of my extended Irish family. The saints and angels of heaven held picnics in the sunny meadows of my mind just as my aunts, uncles and cousins held them in the sloping meadows of Nova Scotia's coves and bays.
The Catholic Church's cosmology and my own began to develop a schism in kindergarten. It was initiated by the church's refusal to recognize the sainthood of my Aunt Peg.
All of my relatives referred to Aunt Peg as a saint.
References to her canonization bobbed in her wake as she passed; – "That woman is a saint." "Peg has the patience of a saint."
I believed that Aunt Peg was a saint because everybody I loved and respected said so.
Aunt Peg was married to my Uncle George.
Sister Tough-for-Kindergarten was the first to inform me that Peg was not a real saint. I argued the point until punishment subdued me into a begrudging silence. I came home from school angry and raged at my mother, "Sister said that Aunt Peg isn't a real saint."
Mom's face clouded. "Sister has never met your Uncle George."
George defies easy description. He was an anarchist, a pirate and an iconoclast. He never met a rule he didn't want to break, and he succeeded in breaking a great many. And he seasoned it all with a sprinkling of black navy rum.
It couldn't have been easy to be married to Uncle George.
At one point he covered the front lawn with horse poop so he could grow blueberries he used to make wine that blew up all over the garage.
He then built a 20-foot disc and 100-foot tower in the middle of the blueberries and horse poop so he could communicate with the Russians during the height of the Cold War.
As I grew older, I came to understand that Aunt Peg may have been a saint, but the local conspiracy of priests and nuns wasn't going to let anyone connected with Uncle George get nominated for beatification.
George was always resourceful. He had a trick up his sleeve for any situation. When Aunt Peg's blood began to look like it might boil over he would ask sweetly, "Peg, have you had your chocolate?" and he would offer some from a bar he kept in his pocket.
Aunt Peg would grudgingly take a piece and the world became a better place.
George knew intuitively what scientists are beginning to learn – that chocolate makes people happy.
Chocolate is the "happy vitamin." Dark chocolate contains a chemical mix that promotes the release of serotonin in the brain and helps alleviate depression and anxiety.
Chocolate is also beginning to claim other health benefits.
It stimulates brain activity and heart rate, and it is credited with positive effects on the circulatory system. Chocolate also has antioxidant properties that are linked to inhibiting cancers.
Katherine Hepburn said, "Every woman should have chocolate every day."
Uncle George thought so too.